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Greek Islands Postcards

holiday travel guides to the islands of Greece

As an antidote to the usual gushing Greece holiday brochures we offer a more prosaic peek at holiday travel in the Greek islands with unbiased reports and independent guides to the best Greek beaches.

Our Popular Greek islands list those in greatest demand. They usually have their own airport and plenty of tourist attractions.

The Peaceful islands tend to be off the main tourist trail and, while some have larger airports, others may need a ferry journey to reach them.

The Sleepy islands are well off the tourist track and may only be reached by ferry, with some a considerable distance from the nearest large airport.

Our Offbeat islands are mainly for those seeking a more remote and authentic Greek islands holiday.

By far the frankest and best written guide to the Greek islands - Guardian Online

2014 holidays off to bumper start

Beach

It looks like another record year for Greek Island holidays if the level of early bookings is anything to go by. UK travel agents report bookings up 10% in January and February this year while other major tourism countries like Germany also reporting early rises. It has led tourism experts to forecast a record breaking year for Greek Island holidays with more than 18.5 million visitors expected in 2014. No one can argue that Greece doesn't need the foreign revenues as the Greek economy struggles and unemployment soars to 28%. Analyst are confident that Greece could pull in 24 million holiday visitors by 2021 and help create 300,000 more jobs if the trend continues. Greece is to invest 3.3 billion annually in upgrading transport links including fast seaplane services.

Featured Greek beaches

Agia Paraskevi Samos

Agia Paraskevi on Samos

One of the most beautiful spots on Samos, Agia Paraskevi lies on the headland north of Samos Town. Just a narrow swathe of pebble and a couple of tavernas but the vistas are exquisite and the hills are covered in walking trails.

Vatera Lesvos

Vatera beach on Lesvos

Vatera is a long sandy beach on the south-east coast of Lesvos with gentle shelving sands and islets offshore. Forested hills, vineyards and olive groves give Vatera a quiet countryside atmosphere with Agios Fokas port nearby.

Mikros Gialos Lefkas

Mikros Yialos beach Lefkas

Mikros Yialos, also known as Rouda beach, is one of the most beautiful on Lefkas with a long, south-facing sand and pebble beach at the head of a deep bay and dominated by the Rouda Bay Hotel holiday beach complex.

Seaplane services get a little closer

Seaplanes

Plans to link the Greek islands with fast seaplane services by the summer of 2014 are well under way. Permits look set to be given to launch hydroplanes from island ports at Corfu, Crete, Zante and Skyros. Permits will pave the way for port authorities to lease the rights to operate seaplane services. The Greek government says the new water airports will create a new market for tourism and transport between the islands with a seaplane airport network right across Greece. It means holiday visitors should soon be able to island hop by seaplane, helping to open up many of the smaller, more remote Greek islands to tourism. The first attempt to start a seaplane network in 2005 got bogged down red tape but the Government is keen to relax regulations this time in a bid to get inter-island seaplane flights off the ground, or water in this case.

Featured Greek sights

Elytis Ios

Odysseas Elytis on Ios

The Odysseas Elytis amphitheatre is located above the main village of Hora with some spectacular views over Mylopotas beach. The fine amphitheatre hosts many open-air cultural events over the summer season.

Katavothres Kefalonia

Katavothres on Kefalonia

Near Argostoli are the Katavothres swallow holes where water disappears into underground caverns to emerge on the other side of the island. The water has been used for generations to power waterwheels.

Ekatontapiliani Paros

Church of a hundred doors

Dubbed the finest church in the Aegean, the Cathedral of Ekatontapiliani is in Parikia on Paros. Founded in 327 and restored in 1966, the dome has four square pillars and inside is an ornate wood and marble screen.

Rules relaxed for Greek scuba diving

Greek islands

Scuba diving off the Greek Islands got a new lease of life when diving bans were lifted. Now Greek scuba dive centres are springing up everywhere to meet the demand. Until recently, diving was limited to just a few Greek island dive sites in order to protect the ancient underwater treasures that lie beneath its seas. Now scuba diving is allowed pretty much everywhere in Greek seas with just a few prohibited sites. The result has been a sharp rise in the number of Greek Island diving centres. In choosing one for your holiday be sure to check that instructors are PADI qualified and the wise will take out specialist scuba diving insurance just in case. That said, the crystal clear waters of Greece are teeming with marine life and there are some spectacular caves and shipwrecks for Greek Island visitors to explore.

Plan your Greek ferry hops early this year

Ferries

Planning ahead has always been a headache for those who like Greek island hopping on the extensive ferry system. Summer timetables were never published before May making it hard work to plan a Greek holiday on more than a couple of islands. This year is different. Ferry companies got together and agreed to release summer routes and schedules at the end of last year. The move makes it possible for Greek holiday enthusiasts to cash in on holiday discounts for booking cheap flights early safe in the knowledge that they will not find themselves stuck on an island for days trying to find out when the next ferry sailing is scheduled. The much-welcomed move, along with newly launched seaplane services, should help boost visitor numbers to the Greek Islands even more this year and extend the Greek holiday season.

Greece nets 393 clean beach awards

Greek holiday beach

Every holidaymaker likes to swim and sunbathe on a clean beach, safe beach. So it's good to know that the Greek Islands picked up no less than 393 Blue Flag awards for its clean beaches this season. Greece is now second only to Spain for the cleanliness of its holiday beaches. Among the leading Greek islands for clean beach awards are Crete (38) and Corfu (35) while the mainland coast of Halkidiki also landed a total of 35 Blue Flags. Other Greek holiday islands lifting clean beach awards this year include Rhodes (20), Thassos (10), Kefalonia (9) and Lefkas (6 )and Kos (5). To fly a Blue Flag a beach must meet 32 strict criteria on seawater quality, cleanliness, safety and the environment. Greece is now second of 49 countries worldwide awarded Blue Flags at 3,103 beaches and 626 marinas.

A quick guide to the Greek Islands

Greek travel map

There are more than 6,000 Greek Islands but most are just lumps of rock. Only around 230 are inhabited and about 80 have a population over 100. About a dozen are major holiday destinations with another 20 having substantial tourist visitors. There are six basic island groupings: the Ionian lie to the west and contain holiday islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Kefalonia and Zante. The Cyclades are found in the central Aegean and include Mykonos and Santorini as well as lesser visited islands like Paros and Naxos. To the east are the Dodecanese and major islands like Rhodes and Kos as well as smaller ones such as Symi and Patmos. To the northeast is the Sporades group which includes Skiathos and the north Aegean group of Samos, Lesvos and Thassos. To the south is Crete - big enough to be on its own.